Building an HTPC. Part 5: The rest of the hardware
To make a complete PC, we now need a harddisk. memory, a DVD player and a screen. I also need a wifi card, and of course a tv tuner card for my usage, but I’ll leave them be until it’s time to discuss the installation of the software.
For a harddisk I chose Seagate, because they have a reputation for making quiet disks. The most gigabytes per buck is currently for 500GB disks, so I got a Seagate 7200.10 500GB disk, with SATA interface, to make the cable mess lower.
When it comes to DVD-drive I honestly don’t know enough to tell one from another. So I went on looks. And the fact is that most DVD-drives have the DVD and CD-ROM and often other logos printed on the tray, which is quite ugly. So I went with a Pioneer 112BK DVD drive because it instead had the logos embossed in the black plastic, which makes them harder to spot. This makes for a cleaner and more sophisticated look when you open the DVD-tray. The image to the right is taken with a flash which makes the embossing stand out more than it does in real life. In normal light it’s quite discreet and in the low-light conditions you have when you have a party and are going to impress your friends with your classy computer, it’s virtually invisible.
Mounting the DVD drive in the chassis isn’t much of a problem, but because you push the open button via another button on the front, is has to be mounted right to work well. My first attempt ended up with the button alsways in the pushed position, which wasn’t a good idea. The DVD drive needs to be really pushed as far back as possible in the chassis.
When it came to memory, I made a mistake. I looked at what the fastest memory the motherboard could support was, and got that. But, it turns out that with AMDs newer processors the memory speed is determined solely by the processor as the memory controller is built into the processor, and not into the northbridge chipset, which how it otherwise is done. The result? I bought memory that can run on 400MHz, while the processor I use will run the memory on 200MHz. Luckily, memory is cheap, so I didn’t lose that much money. I got a set of two 512MB blocks so I have 1GB of dual channel memory. The information on this is very confusing. There is a memory speed setting in the motherboard BIOS, and it seems to be working fine, and the memory is running on 400 MHz, which does make the memory tests run faster, completely despite that this supposed to be impossible according to various information about these processors. Again, I can only repeat that this whole business of buildiong PC’s is now so complicated you shouldn’t waste your time with it, but buy finished computers.
As I’m going to use this computer mainly to play music and watch video, I wanted a big screen. 22″ seems to be some sort of cost-limit at the moment. Above that LCD screens get extremely expensive. I also needed decent contrast and wide viewing angles, so you can fill up the sofa with friends and everybody still can enjoy it. My girlfriend insisted on a black screen, which of course matches the chassis. I ended up simply getting the cheapest 22″ screen I could find, and IISonic IIM22W for 300€. It’s black, it has decent contrast and a wide viewing angle and it’s large and cheap.
I would have preferred a screen that had DVI input to make sure the picture is super-crisp, but they all turned out to be rather much more expensive. With the IISonic there is some color bleeding (see picture to the right), which I guess it from using an analog VGA connection with a high resolution. So I wouldn’t recommend this screen for desktop use, but for watching videos it works great!
Next it’s time for the software. As previously mentioned, I’m trying to use Ubuntu as the operating system.